COVID-19 is still a major concern and in Michigan, it’s led to job cuts—both temporarily and more permanently. Job loss is a very stressful event, and it is important to know how to cope and what resources are available to help you get back on your feet.
Processing emotions after job loss
Mental health experts say there are many things to keep in mind, starting with understanding the heavy emotions that come with a job loss. These can include:
- Grief – Grief is a natural response to loss of any kind. Some psychologists have noted that losing a job can even equate to the grief of losing a loved one.
- Shock and denial – The public announcement of your termination may not seem real for some time, and it may take a while for you to come to terms with the reality of your situation.
- Fear and panic – Anything that costs money during unemployment brings up a host of valid concerns. During the fear and panic stage, it’s common to spend time and energy worrying about things like:
- Will I have to declare bankruptcy?
- What happens if I lose everything I own?
- Will my family and friends abandon me?
- Is this the end of my career?
- Will any employer ever give me another chance?
- Anger – Anger is an appropriate response to job loss, and any kind of serious loss. It lingers just below the surface and can well up unexpectedly. The longer you stew about your situation, the angrier and more resentful you can become.
- Bargaining – Once you’ve expressed your anger, your mind may move to the bargaining stage—where thoughts like the following could occur:
- I’ll get another job right away.
- Maybe it was all a mistake.
- The situation can’t be as bad as it seems.
- Maybe my old company will apologize and take me back when management sees what a mistake it was to let me go.
- Depression – Depression can be the result of a chemical imbalance in your body. Mental health experts say it’s important to understand that it’s not your fault and can be treated. If depression is a recurring emotion for you, seek immediate professional help. See the resources below for options in Michigan.
Strategies for coping with job loss
Once you understand the many emotions that can come with job loss, professionals from the Behavioral Health team at Priority Health recommend the following tips to help cope.
- Take time to feel and process strong emotions. If you find like you’re struggling during this time, you are not alone. Process the emotions you feel, and ask for help if you need it.
- Prioritize self-care. Mental and emotional resilience requires physical resilience. Be intentional about taking care of you and doing whatever it takes to feel strong and fit. Get outdoors, go for a run, do some gardening, or just do something you love to lift your spirits.
- Lean on family and close friends. Talk about how you’re feeling with someone you trust. Unemployment impacts the whole family, so don’t try to shoulder your problems alone. Keeping your job loss a secret will only make the situation worse. Support from family and friends can help you survive and thrive, even during this difficult time.
- Shift focus to what you can control. You can’t control how quickly a potential employer calls you back or if they hire you. Turn your attention to what you can control during unemployment, such as learning new skills, polishing your resume and setting up meetings with your networking contacts. During the job hunt, it can be easy to feel personally rejected by unanswered applications and interviews that leave you without an offer. Instead, try to reframe things as opportunities for another outcome.
- Analyze your finances and adjust your budget. After losing your job, reworking your budget can help you account for your loss of income and stay afloat. Try the following:
- Build a budget worksheet – Start by creating a budget worksheet digitally or on paper. Use it to walk through creating, or updating, your monthly budget.
- Assess your income – Determine how much money you’ll have coming in over the next few months by listing each source of income on your budget worksheet.
- Add up your fixed expenses – Once you have a clear idea of how much money you’ll have coming in, add up how much you’ll need to go out to cover expenses. Make a list of all mandatory expenses you’ll need to cover each month including rent or mortgage, utilities, car payments, insurance premiums, phone bills and minimum debt payments. If you anticipate being unable to cover expenses, contact the service provider or creditor to find out if they offer any short-term assistance. Here are some aid resources during COVID-19.
- Evaluate your spending habits – After you’ve totaled your fixed expenses, you’ll need to take an honest look at your flexible spending. This is spending that you can reduce or cut altogether. Reference your budget worksheet and subtract your fixed expenses from your income. One easy area to cut is eating out or ordering carryout less. Try these budget-friendly ways to eat healthy or stock up on these affordable pantry staples. If you pay for any kind of fitness membership—gyms are closed right now, so consider free workouts at home or taking advantage of the nice weather and getting outside to get moving. Take this time to improve your yard, for example—a great workout that will also keep you busy and leave you with a sense of accomplishment.
- Stick to your new budget – Once you’ve finalized your budget, get serious about sticking to it. You’ll be glad you did when your next paychecks start coming in again.
- Sign up for unemployment and health coverage — If you’re eligible, visit the state website to apply for unemployment benefits. Several programs have been expanded due to COVID-19. It’s also important that you don’t go without health coverage with the virus still spreading throughout the state. Here are answers to the questions you may have about your options if you’ve lost employer-sponsored health insurance.
- Re-evaluate what you want from your job. Take time to sit back and really figure out what you want to do next. Reassess your education and career goals. Think about what you want to do and the skills needed to do it. Then enroll in courses, webinars or online training to develop those skills—or enhance the skills you already have. Remember to pay attention to those things that drive you and determine how you can turn your passions into a job.
- Network to make new connections. Networking may seem a little overwhelming right now because coffee or happy hour meetups are challenging. But there are still plenty of ways to network effectively during this time.
- Tap into your network and reach out to old colleagues.
- Use social networks such as LinkedIn to make connections and reach out to others in your field.
- Many people are looking to help one another right now, so even though in-person meetings may not be happening, there’s still an opportunity to hop on the phone or set up a quick video chat.
- Set up dedicated time and a process for job hunting. Hiring pros say there’s no science for how much time to spend each day applying for jobs. Get on a schedule. Set up certain times each day where your sole focus will be searching for opportunities. A good process to follow each time you apply for a job is:
- Do the research on each company.
- Customize your resume and cover letter for each role.
- Figure out your narrative to ensure you’re ready for interviews.
- Update your personal brand such as your elevator pitch and public social media profiles, especially LinkedIn.
- Take time to build relationships—follow up on all communications and send thank you notes or emails after interviews.
These are tough times, and adding job loss on top of everything is a lot to deal with. While it’s ok to feel overwhelmed, just know you aren’t alone.
Behavioral help resources
If you’ve decided at any time you need some additional mental health help, here are resources available:
- Your health insurance company. Check with your health plan to see which resources are accessible to you. For example, Priority Health provides members with information like what kind of help is available, what your plan will cover and how to find counselors or behavioral health care providers to meet your needs. An on-staff behavioral health team is available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call the number on the back of your member ID card (your call is completely confidential) or log into your online account. Priority Health has also partnered with a digital health specialist to offer free access to mental wellness resources specifically focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more here. And if you’re a Priority Health member, $0 cost share for behavioral health virtual visits are being offered to members through December 31, 2020. Learn more here.
- Disaster distress helpline. A 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
- Online or virtual care.Try an online therapy session through a website such as 7 Cups, an online emotional health service provider. The app enables users to select listeners based on their preferences/experiences and anonymously chat via the platform 24/7. In times of emotional turmoil or stress, it is highly beneficial to talk to someone and this app offers a safe space to do that. Headspace is another free mental health resource for Michiganders during the COVID-19 pandemic offering meditations, at-home workouts and other help for stress and anxiety.
- Community resources.For Michiganders in need of free or low-cost mental health, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has a county map of community mental health service programs.
Whatever tools you use for help, take the time to make your mental health a priority during this season of stress and uncertainty. And remember, when it comes to finding a new job—there’s an entire network out there and the perfect opportunity is waiting for you.